Leonardo Notarbartolo strolls into the prison visiting room trailing a guard as if the guy were his personal

assistant. The other convicts in this eastern Belgian prison turn to look. Notarbartolo nods and smiles faintly, the laugh lines crinkling around his blue eyes. Though he's an inmate and wears the requisite white prisoner jacket, Notarbartolo radiates a sunny Italian charm. A silver Rolex peeks out from under his cuff, and a vertical strip of white soul patch drops down from his lower lip like an exclamation mark. In February 2003, Notarbartolo was arrested for heading a ring of Italian thieves. They were accused of breaking into a vault two floors beneath the Antwerp Diamond Center and making off with at least $100 million worth of loose diamonds, gold, jewelry, and other spoils. The vault was thought to be impenetrable. It was protected by 10 layers of security, including infrared heat detectors, Doppler radar, a magnetic field, a seismic sensor, and a lock with 100 million possible combinations. The robbery was called the heist of the century, and even now the police can't explain exactly how it was done. The loot was never found, but based on circumstantial evidence, Notarbartolo was sentenced to 10 years. He has always denied having anything to do with the crime and has refused to discuss his case with journalists, preferring to remain silent for the past six years. Until now. Notarbartolo sits down across from me at one of the visiting room's two dozen small rectangular tables. He has an intimidating reputation. The Italian anti-Mafia police contend he is tied to the Sicilian mob, that his cousin was tapped to be the next capo dei capi—the head of the entire organization. Notarbartolo intends to set the record straight. He puts his hands on the table. He has had six years to think about what he is about to say. "I may be a thief and a liar," he says in beguiling Italian-accented French. "But I am going to tell you a true story." It was February 16, 2003 — a clear, frozen Sunday evening in Belgium. Notarbartolo took the E19 motorway out of Antwerp. In the passenger seat, a man known as Speedy fidgeted nervously, damp with sweat. Notarbartolo punched it, and his rented Peugeot 307 sped south toward Brussels. They hadn't slept in two days. Speedy scanned the traffic behind them in the side-view mirror and maintained a tense silence. Notarbartolo had worked with him for 30 years—they were childhood buddies—but he knew that his friend had a habit of coming apart at the end of a job. The others on the team hadn't wanted Speedy in on this one—they said he was a liability. Notarbartolo could see their point, but out of loyalty, he defended his friend. Speedy could handle it, he said. And he had. They had executed the plan perfectly: no alarms, no police, no problems. The heist wouldn't be discovered until guards checked the vault on Monday morning. The rest of the team was already driving back to Italy with the gems. They'd rendezvous outside Milan to divvy it all up. There was no reason to worry. Notarbartolo and Speedy just had to burn the incriminating evidence sitting in a garbage bag in the backseat. They were accused of breaking into the Antwerp Diamond Center’s supersecure vault and stealing $100 million in diamonds, gold and jewelry. The loot was never found, but their trash was. For more, visit wired.com/video. Notarbartolo pulled off the highway and turned onto a dirt road that led into a dense thicket. The spot wasn't visible from the highway, though the headlights of passing cars fractured through the trees. Notarbartolo told Speedy to stay put and got out to scout the area. He passed a rusty, dilapidated gate that looked like it hadn't been touched since the Second World War. It was hard to see in the dark, but the spot seemed abandoned. He decided to burn the stuff

known as diamantaires. which is under 24-hour police surveillance and monitored by 63 video cameras. Speedy was breathing fast and shallow—the man was clearly in the midst of a full-blown panic attack. "Fully functional. Hasidic men wearing broad- . Leonardo Notarbartolo sipped an espresso at a café on Hoveniersstraat. the Belgian government realized it would require a special type of cop to keep an eye on things and formed the squad. It appeared that the thieves had so much loot. Eighty percent of the world's rough diamonds pass through this three-square-block area. When he got there." the operator said. glancing at the devastation all around him. Peys and De Bruycker were stunned. The Diamond Center's vault after the robbery. They were leaving. Israeli and Indian currency skittered past a half-eaten salami sandwich. The job was done. Business relationships follow the ancient family and religious traditions of the district's dominant Jewish and Indian dealers. but from the corner by the window Notarbartolo could look out on the epicenter of the world's diamond trade. It was a cramped. and more than 100 of the 189 safe-deposit boxes had been busted open. the vault's alarm company." Speedy said. During business hours. Peys and De Bruycker were the first hires. De Bruycker called headquarters. Then he dialed Securilink. The floor was strewn with wads of cash and velvet-lined boxes. It was even possible to hear the faint gurgling of a small stream. he couldn't believe what he was seeing. Patrick Peys and Agim De Bruycker arrived at the Diamond Center the next morning. but that's not counting a hidden world of handshake deals and off-ledger transactions. About 18 months earlier. In 2000. "The vault is secure. glittering diamonds. Speedy was stomping through the mud. The mud around the car was flecked with dozens of tiny. About $3 billion worth of gem sales were reported here in 2003. Peys stepped on a diamond-encrusted bracelet. narrow place with a half-dozen small tables. They were up against a rare breed of criminal. looking panicked. Notarbartolo glared at him. in the summer of 2001. asking for a nationwide alert: The Antwerp Diamond Center had been brazenly robbed. Spools of videotape clung to the branches like streamers on a Christmas tree.near a shed beside a small pond and headed back to the car. "What is the status of the alarm?" he asked." "Then how is it that the door is wide open and I'm standing inside the vault?" De Bruycker demanded. Their beat: the labyrinthine Antwerp Diamond District. He hung up and looked at Peys. Now the foot-thick steel door was ajar. Speedy had lost it. The contents of the garbage bag was strewn amongst the trees. Nobody would ever find the stuff here. The forest was quiet except for the occasional sound of a car or truck on the highway. "Get back in the car. checking the signals coming in from the Diamond Center. hurling paper into the underbrush. Peys and De Bruycker lead the Diamond Squad. the diamond district's main street. the world's only specialized diamond police. It would take hours to gather everything up and burn it. "I think someone's coming. The subterranean chamber was supposed to be one of the most secure safes in the world." Notarbartolo ordered. they simply couldn't carry it all away. They had just received a frantic call: The vault had been compromised.

In his thirties. He came to town about twice a month. He bought small stones. and off-the-shelf rollies. "Actually. coat pockets. "A big robbery. and once they were clear of the district. and bald Armenians with reading glasses pushed up on their mottled heads. dressed well. But for 100. the dealer picked up the conversation. all those gems are locked up in safes and underground vaults. Armored cars idled tensely while burly couriers with handguns wheeled away small black suitcases.brimmed hats hurried past with satchels locked to their wrists." the dealer said casually. stayed a few days at a small apartment near the Diamond District. It's also a thief's paradise. He would buy a few stones and then. A diamond necklace stolen in Italy could be dismantled and its individual gems sold for cash in Antwerp. I want to talk to you about something a little unusual. he filched money from his teachers. Acting the part of the jolly jeweler. There were Africans in bright blue suits. one of the area's largest buildings. he dealt with only a few trusted buyers. It was 1958—he was 6. Now.000 lira—about $8. Notarbartolo had pulled off dozens of major robberies by 2000. His tone had changed however. In elementary school. and young Leo rifled through his drawers.000 euros." The agreement was straightforward. He still remembers every detail of his first robbery. He stole because he was born to be a thief. At night. lived in or near Turin. one of them—a Jewish dealer—came in and sat down to chat. and a man who could scale the sleek exteriors of office buildings. Notarbartolo's specialty was charm. In 2000. Notarbartolo rented a small office in the Diamond Center. safecrackers. By his own account. each with their own specialty. and even vault rooms to inspect merchandise. he began to assemble teams of thieves. and cheerfully mangled the French language. The dealers probably never knew that they had just welcomed one of the world's best jewel thieves into their circle. As a teenager. For an initial payment of 100.000 euros. It wasn't just about the money anymore. he devoted himself to the study of people. The casualness was gone. they travel from office to office in briefcases. His mother had sent him out for milk. His mother beat him. steal the target's entire stock in the middle of the night. He viewed it as the safest place to keep valuables in Antwerp. He knew lock-picking experts. Notarbartolo would answer a simple question: Could the vault in the Antwerp Diamond Center be robbed? He was pretty sure the answer was no. workshops. then drove home to his wife and kids in the foothills of the Alps. as he finished his espresso. During the day. Each job brought a different mix of thieves into play. He presented himself as a gem importer based in Turin." he said. guys who could tunnel under anything. paid cash. Indian merchants wearing loupes around their necks. he stole cars and learned to pick locks. Italy. and the group came to be known as the School of Turin. alarm aces. but it didn't matter. When he had stolen goods to sell. including Notarbartolo. . The milkman had been asleep. he was invited into offices. In his twenties. tracking jewelry salesmen around Italy for weeks just to understand their habits. He was a tenant in the building and rented a safe-deposit box in the vault to secure his own stash. It's one of the densest concentrations of wealth in the world. a week or a month later. Billions of dollars in diamonds pass by the café's window. he was happy to photograph the place and show the dealer how daunting it really was. and he came back with 5. and scheduled meetings with numerous dealers. "Maybe we could walk a little?" They headed out. Antwerp provided a wealth of opportunity and a good place to fence hot property. "I'd like to hire you for a robbery. Most. He had found his calling.

and the feed was recorded on videotape. The door was monitored by a pair of abutting metal plates. The three main blocks of the district bristled with video cameras: Every inch of street and sky appeared to be under watch. He began his reconnaissance at the police surveillance booth on the Schupstraat. A security camera transmitted his movements to the guard station. and light detectors. Access was blocked by metal turnstiles. Power tools wouldn't do the trick. recognized Notarbartolo. leaving only a steel grate to prevent access. two officers monitored the area. Notarbartolo went through the motions of opening and closing his box and then walked out. the field would break. To enter. descending two floors underground to a small. As Notarbartolo walked past. fortresslike building on the south end of the district. The 3-ton steel vault door. Of course. He took the elevator. . and visitors were questioned by guards. He is allotted only one hour of visiting time per day. but the cap contained a miniaturized digital camera capable of storing 100 high-resolution images. Notarbartolo leans toward me in the Belgian prison and asks if I have any questions so far. Photography is strictly limited in the district. the door was actually left open. The place was outfitted with motion. At a glance. It alone had six layers of security. Any break-in would have to be done at night. a code had to be typed into a nearby keypad. There was a combination wheel with numbers from 0 to 99. The safe-deposit boxes themselves were made of steel and copper and required a key and combination to open. and shuttered the entrances with steel roll-gates. During those quiet midnight hours. a gray. Finally. To disarm the field.576 possible combinations. There were 100 million possible combinations. The booth also contained the controls for the retractable steel cylinders that are deployed to prevent vehicular access to the district. It is a rare break in his fast-moving monologue. A guard upstairs glanced at the videofeed. emptied the building. claustrophobic room—the vault antechamber. His camera captured crisp images of everything. it looked like a simple highlighter. heat. and remotely unlocked the steel grate. Notarbartolo flashed his tenant ID card and breezed through. It had a private security force that operated a nerve center located at the entrance. after the guards had locked down the vault. four numbers had to be dialed. nobody patrolled the interior—the guards trusted their technological defenses. The door was rated to withstand 12 hours of nonstop drilling.So he strolled into the Diamond District with a pen poking out of his breast pocket. There is a sense of urgency. the lock required an almost-impossible-to-duplicate foot-long key. a street leading into the center of the district. Behind the booth's bulletproof glass. He headed toward the Diamond Center itself. the first vibrations of a drill bit would set off the embedded seismic alarm anyway. one on the door itself and one on the wall just to the right. Each box had 17. Notarbartolo pressed a buzzer on the steel grate. 14-story. but nobody noticed Notarbartolo's pencam. triggering an alarm. But Notarbartolo had no intention of muscling his way in when people were around and then shooting his way out. and the digits could be seen only through a small lens on the top of the wheel. When armed. It was silent—he was surrounded by thick concrete walls. the plates formed a magnetic field. he began taking pictures. If the door were opened. The vault was one of the hardest targets he'd ever seen. A 3-ton steel vault door dominated the far wall. Notarbartolo stepped inside the vault. During business hours.

"You can disable this?" Notarbartolo asked. To his left. the dealer was waiting for him in front of an abandoned warehouse. "Bravo. They stopped talking when they saw the dealer and Notarbartolo." I say. and driver and had enormous physical strength. "I want to introduce you to some people. Notarbartolo says. As far as Notarbartolo could tell. he could disable any kind of alarm. though. Inside. smiling. he saw the vault door. According to the dealer. claiming he was about to become the new leader of the Sicilian Mafia." the Genius said with a smile. He was an expert lock picker. Notarbartolo was confused. Notarbartolo felt like he had stepped into a movie. though Notarbartolo refuses to reveal their names. The reality. Notarbartolo might be inventing a story about the Jewish diamond dealer to distract attention from what really happened. Notarbartolo says the Italian authorities traveled to Belgium soon after the heist to question him about Capizzi's possible role in the robbery. It took five months for the diamond dealer to call back after Notarbartolo told him the heist was impossible. Inside the fake vault. mechanic. is that he thought the vault was impregnable. When Notarbartolo arrived. One of his contributions would be to duplicate the nearly impossible-toduplicate foot-long vault key. "What about your cousin?" His smile disappears. The King of Keys was a quiet older man. The dealer pulled back a corner and they ducked underneath. three Italians were having a quiet conversation. Everybody was a little scared of him. The diamond dealer said that the wizened locksmith was among the best key forgers in the world. electrician. He seemed to be standing in the vault antechamber." he replies. He was inside an exact replica of the Diamond Center's vault level. He had even given him the photographs to prove it. Notarbartolo scoffs at this idea and insists that his cousin had nothing to do with the heist. Notarbartolo was born in Palermo. He was called that because he was monstrously good at everything he did. but now the dealer wanted to meet at an address outside Antwerp. unlocking the battered front door. The dealer introduced them. He didn't believe it could be robbed until the dealer went to extraordinary lengths to prove him wrong." he said." The tall. If there is an organized-crime link. At first. The Genius specialized in alarm systems. "You're going to have to do one or two things yourself. which was another reason for the nickname. a massive structure was covered with black plastic tarps. Sicily. and members of his extended family have long been dogged by accusations of Mafia connections. pointing at the replica vault. the dealer had reconstructed it based on the photographs he had provided. referring to them only by nicknames. "I can disable most of it. Everything was the same. His age set him apart from the others—he looked like somebody's grandfather. . Those accusations reached a crescendo last year when anti-Mafia police arrested Notarbartolo's cousin Benedetto Capizzi."You're telling me that the heist was organized by an Antwerp diamond dealer. Notarbartolo thought that would be the end of it. muscular man was the Monster.

2003. The Diamond District was flush. and the vault door swung open. oily mist. Notarbartolo was buzzed into the vault the next day. the combination came to rest on a number. where they were divided and placed in 120 boxes—one for each official De Beers distributor. The thud-thud-thud of a police helicopter beat over a convoy of police cars escorting an armored truck through the heart of Antwerp. "Don't worry. In 2003. A security camera recorded his movements—police would later watch the footage—but the guard had gotten used to the Italian's frequent visits and wasn't paying attention. in a storage room beside the vault. Thursday morning. They blew past posters of Venus Williams—she was due in town to compete in the Proximus Diamond Games tennis tournament. That wasn't his problem. The vehicles rocketed past the guard gate at the entrance of the district. With each spin. He was right on schedule. "I'll do the rest. The doors swung open. The video camera recorded a sharp image of it before it disappeared inside the keyhole. an ordinary-looking red fire extinguisher was strapped to the wall." the man told Notarbartolo. but a watertight compartment inside housed electronics that picked up and recorded the video signal. Notarbartolo used women's hair spray to temporarily disable the vault's combined heat/motion sensor. With a quick. In his jacket pocket. "I'll help. Notarbartolo stepped away from the safe-deposit boxes and pulled out the aerosol can. the convoy sped away. . A small antenna broadcast the image. practiced circular movement. among others. worth millions. a guard stepped up to the vault door and began to spin the combination wheel. The King of Keys shrugged. The rough. Namibia. it controlled 55 percent of the global diamond supply and operated mines in South Africa." "That's not so easy." In September 2002. blocking any further automotive access. unpolished gems were flown to London. The escorts bristled with firepower. Directly above his head and invisible behind the glare of a recessed light. Two days before the heist. No one was allowed near the vehicle." the Genius said. Friday. De Beers is the world's largest diamond-mining company. When the guard finished dialing the combination. February 14—the day before the robbery. sirens wailing. Their cargo: De Beers' monthly shipment of diamonds. and each cop carried a fully automatic weapon. The extinguisher was fully functional. and the boxes were quickly carried through an unremarkable entrance in the middle of the block. and Botswana. Every month. many of which were headquartered in Antwerp. Antwerp's share of the boxes was flown into Belgium and transferred to a Brinks armored truck. They belonged to a special diamond-delivery protection unit. he carried a can of women's hair spray. It was payday. a fingertip-sized video camera captured his every move. The armed escorts fanned out on foot around the armored truck to form a perimeter. February 13. he inserted the vault's key."Just get me a clear video of it." Notarbartolo pointed out. Once the truck's doors slammed shut. and the giant metal cylinders rose out of the ground behind them. he covered the combined heat/motion sensor with a thin coat of transparent. He spun the handle. Nearby. He was alone. It was 7 am.

It was a little past midnight. Using a ladder he had previously hidden there. The police never determined how the men had entered the building. The King of Keys slotted the original in the keyhole and waited while the Genius dialed in the combination they had gleaned from the video. and the alarm went off only if it sensed both heat and motion. the Genius disabled an alarm sensor on one of the balcony's windows. allowing the Genius to pivot them out of the way and tape them to the antechamber wall. dropped into a stairwell. The Monster . the King of Keys played out a hunch. Nobody knew for sure. and Williams was dominating the semifinals of the Diamond Games. A moment later. the Genius climbed up to a small terrace on the second floor. homemade polyester shield. The King of Keys grabbed the original. There was no point in letting the safe manufacturers know that their precious key could be copied. they found a major security lapse: The original vault key was hanging inside. It was one of the few places in the district that wasn't under video surveillance. The plates were still side by side and active—the magnetic field never wavered—but they no longer monitored the door. he had to install the sensor bypass before his body heat penetrated the film. The Genius led them out the rear of the building into a private garden that abutted the back of the Diamond Center. the thieves climbed through the window. They covered the security cameras with black plastic bags and flipped on the lights. and the Monster. Across town. Notarbartolo drove his rented gray Peugeot 307 past the city's soot-covered central train station and turned onto Pelikaanstraat.The vault was momentarily filled with the smell of a woman's hair. and descended to the darkened vault antechamber. It was a simple but effective hack: The oily film would temporarily insulate the sensor from fluctuations in the room's temperature. Next. The Genius pulled a custom-made slab of rigid aluminum out of his bag and affixed heavy-duty double-sided tape to one side. a road that skirted the district. and they disappeared through the door. but the sticky aluminum held them together. The vault door stood imposingly before them. Many of the city's diamantaires watched as Williams beat down the Slovak and moved one step closer to winning a tennis racket encrusted with nearly $1 million worth of stones. The building was quiet—no alarms had been triggered. The low thermal conductivity of the polyester blocked his body heat from reaching the sensor. One by one. The Genius used this custom-made slab of aluminum to reposition the magnetic field away from the vault door. the Genius nodded. the King of Keys. overwhelming her leggy Slovakian opponent. He placed the shield directly in front of the detector. preventing it from sensing anything. When the thieves searched the room. He stuck it on the two plates that regulated the magnetic field on the right side of the vault door and unscrewed their bolts. The King of Keys picked the lock on a run-down office building. In Notarbartolo's videos. and the police still don't know that a duplicate was made. He might have five minutes— he might have less. The magnetic plates were now loose. but he approached it slowly from behind a large. the Genius. the Diamond District was deserted. A heat-sensing infrared detector monitored the terrace. Once the Monster was in the vault. Some 30 hours later. While the rest of the team scrambled up. Still. the authorities would marvel at the ingenuity. the guard usually visited a utility room just before opening the vault. He pulled to the curb. an event that hyped Antwerp's predominant position in the gem world. Venus Williams smashed the ball crosscourt with a yelp. and Speedy stepped out carrying large duffel bags. It was Saturday night. it was hard to guess how long the trick would work. The balcony was now safe.

Swiss. they were running out of time. handcranked drill and fitted it with a thin shaft of metal. In the antechamber. the King of Keys turned the key and spun a four-pronged handle. But in those muffled flashes. By 5:30 am. They resisted the urge to examine their haul. millions in Israeli. snapping open the box. covered the light detector with tape. One slip could cut through. But Notabartolo says that the Monster knew exactly what he was doing. it expected an answer. The Monster oriented himself in the darkness at the vault entrance. but . the King of Keys deftly picked the lock on the metal grate. Notarbartolo put his phone back on the dashboard. they worked in the dark. "We're in. the Monster used a tool to strip the plastic coating off the wires. Every second he was there would raise the ambient temperature. He took a sip of cold coffee and waited. He jammed the shaft into one of the locks and cranked for about three minutes—until the lock broke. turning on their flashlights only for split seconds—enough to position the drill over the next box. he got a signal and dialed his old friend. The guys took turns yanking the contents out. Upstairs. and British currencies. An automatic electric pulse constantly shot into the room and back out along these wires. reached for the ceiling.turned off the lights—they didn't want to trigger the light detector in the vault when the door opened. It was a delicate task. The only sound was the steady breathing of the others behind him. He was sitting in the Peugeot and could see the front of the Diamond Center a block and a half away. they had opened 109 boxes. The bolts that secured the door retracted and it swung heavily open. and pushed back a panel. but there was no cell phone reception down in the vault. Speedy ran up the stairwell. They blinded the heat/motion detector with a Styrofoam box. instantly breaking the circuit and tripping the alarm. only to lose their nerve. As he'd practiced in the warehouse. he clipped a new. In the darkness. He shuffled backward as the Monster propped the grate open with two cans of paint he found in the storeroom. When a pulse shot into the room. Once the copper wires were exposed. It was his job to stay in touch with Notarbartolo. Like the rest of the team. and leather satchels that contained the mother lode: rough and polished diamonds. precut piece of wire between the inbound and outbound cables. If it didn't get one. His body was already projecting heat into the vault—the hair spray on the infrared sensor wouldn't last. the circuit would break. The sensors were out of the loop. The Monster bypassed the vault security system's main inbound and outbound wires and then covered this light sensor with tape. and then set to work. the Monster wore plastic gloves—the police would find no prints on the cans. It was now safe for the others to enter. Still." he said and hung up. The police would later discover stripped wires in the ceiling and guess that the thieves considered cutting them. It no longer mattered what happened further down the line. the men were cautious. he strode exactly 11 steps into the middle of the room. The King of Keys unloaded a homemade. Since they had memorized the layout of the vault in the replica. A tamped-down giddiness pervaded the dark vault. If any of the sensors were tripped. they could glimpse their duffel bags overflowing with gold bars. He had to move quickly but keep his heart rate low. American. It was now up to him to disable the remaining systems. it activated the alarm. rendering it useless. His police scanner was quiet. With his hands over his head. He felt the security system's main inbound and outbound wires. This bridge rerouted the incoming electric pulse over to the outbound wire before the signal reached the sensors. European.

" Notarbartolo said. Notarbartolo realized that the heist he had spent so much time planning might have actually been part of an elaborate insurance scam. they were huddled around the bags in the apartment. More often than not. and they needed to transfer their bags into Notarbartolo's car. and his eyes darted madly at the cars around them. In half an hour. It was time to celebrate. lower the loot down the ladder. He'd drop him at the train station in Brussels if that's what he wanted. Something had gone wrong. He opened the satchel and looked up. Most had safes in their offices—they could have simply kept the stock there. Each could then claim that their gems were stolen and collect the insurance while secretly keeping their stones. But Speedy was having trouble. he snapped. He took out another. there was nothing in them. They were coming out. He needed some clarity—the fatigue was weighing on him. pass by the infrared sensor. They unzipped all the other duffel bags and rifled through the satchels. He expected the total take to exceed $100 million. In the predawn half-light. They jammed the bags in the car. It was also empty. The guy was melting down. bewildered. Now he felt like a pawn. Notarbartolo settled in for the 10-hour drive back to Turin. Notarbartolo reflected on his interactions with the diamond dealer." he hissed. The city was crawling with cops— . In the weeks preceding the heist. The streets would fill with people soon. A bus came and went. The Monster unzipped one and pulled out a leather satchel. the four men raced out of the building. Notarbartolo planned to stop in France and burn it." he said. The garbage bag filled with incriminating evidence sat in the backseat. and then the street was empty. It was 6 o'clock on Sunday evening. "We can't take the garbage into Brussels. The diamonds should have been there. slammed the doors. they could have pulled their inventory out of the vault before the heist. Speedy relayed the message to him. leaving no trace of the crime. Notarbartolo idled at the curb while on the phone with Speedy. It was empty. He put the car in gear and slowly pulled away. Now they were looking at a fraction of that—probably about $20 million. after only 20 minutes on the road." Speedy stammered.they had to stop. "We've been set up. It took almost an hour for the team to haul the bags up the stairs. and headed off on foot for Notarbartolo's apartment. A wave of anxiety swept the room. If he tipped off a group of his fellow merchants. It might actually be nicer to do the trip without his friend driving him crazy. He shut off the water. he had seen many of the satchels in the offices of the diamantaires. His face was ashen. and a thought flashed through his mind: Maybe the dealer wasn't operating alone. "I can't do the drive. A half hour earlier he was a king. Notarbartolo stepped into a scalding-hot shower while the others made salami sandwiches in the kitchen. Speedy and Notarbartolo were on the E19 heading out of Antwerp. Notarbartolo told him to take it easy. and they were always filled with inventory. "Now. Finally. and gather in the hallway of the decrepit office building.

he knelt down and glared at the refuse. "There's a dirt road. "What was that?" he said. a rabbit came rocketing out the other end. he bought a narrow strip of forest alongside the E19 motorway. painstakingly gathering the garbage . There was videotape strewn all over the place. After a flash of pique that made him puff out his cheeks. Van Camp found a lot of garbage." August Van Camp likes weasels. There were also some white envelopes printed with the words diamond center. Notarbartolo took the exit and surveyed the darkened surroundings. They couldn't run the risk. The officer listened as Van Camp tallied the mess. "It'll be perfect. A typical conversation: "The kids have made a mess on my land again. Typically. "Just pull off." he grumbled. a half-dozen detectives swarmed the forest. the officer broke in. It was a lot of fun. By mid-afternoon." his friend snapped. Van Camp's irritation increased. to be exact—Van Camp was incensed to find yet another pile of junk in the underbrush." "I demand that you send someone to investigate. "This is a ridiculous time to be having a panic attack. When Van Camp mentioned Diamond Center envelopes. A wine bottle rested near a half-eaten salami sandwich." "I am sorry to hear that. In 1998. he phoned the police. "Antwerp Diamond Center envelopes. They had to drop the bag immediately. The 59-year-old retired Belgian grocer had two—he called them Mickey and Minnie—and he enjoyed sending them down holes in the forest.maybe they would be looking for them." Van Camp rarely heard back." he said abruptly from the passenger seat." Van Camp sputtered." Speedy said. who had gotten used to his calls. and wonder what the world was coming to. It made him fume with anger. He wanted to be able to describe to the cops what he had to put up with. throw up his arms. he punched in the number for the police and asked to lodge a complaint. the police came running." Notarbartolo muttered. While hunting one morning—Monday. Van Camp. There were also a lot of holes with rabbits in them. it was a pretty 12 acres of trees with a gurgling stream." "We will pass along your request. peering into a forest. "Pull off up here. and if you ignored the sound of cars hurtling past at 80 miles an hour. At home. Mr. The local teenagers once decided to have a party there and burned down a little hut he'd built. It was about a five-minute drive from his house. February 17. antwerp. But because it adjoined the highway. This time. "Kids. When he found garbage.

His wife decided to come along. The plan had always been to return it and show his face at the Diamond Center. drinking espressos and then beer. He told his family that he'd be leaving early the next morning. Notarbartolo's invoice for a low-light video surveillance system. a small town about 50 miles northeast of Milan. Italy. The dealer would get a third for financing the operation and putting the team together. He tried to pretend that everything was normal. He carefully lifted it free and held it up to the light. They had agreed to meet the diamond dealer there and divide the loot. jagged piece of paper poking out of the mud. On Monday — about 36 hours after the job was completed—the team of thieves reassembled at a bar in Adro. they found a receipt from a local grocery store for Antipasto Italiano salami. an Italian electronics expert tied to a series of robberies. the rental car was due in Antwerp the next day. and the guy had cracked. but they couldn't help feeling they'd been played. Now they were looking at roughly $3 million per man. but all evidence indicates that D'Onorio is the Genius. Everybody had a lot of questions for the dealer. but what really irked him was that he had vouched for his friend.and collecting stray gems. They found Antipasto Italiano salami packaging nearby and sent it along to Diamond Squad headquarters. February 13. muscular Italian purchasing salami. It would also give him an opportunity to clean his apartment more thoroughly. Van Camp watched with satisfaction. The dealer never showed. he wouldn't be on the list. In a cupboard. His name: Ferdinando Finotto—the man most likely to be the Monster. The lab techs also bagged a half-eaten salami sandwich. As usual. Within hours. It didn't take long to reassemble the pieces like a jigsaw puzzle. she hadn't seen much of him lately. He knew he had made a mistake—he should have turned around after he dropped off Speedy at the train station and gone back to burn the garbage. It was an embarrassing oversight. A member of the squad bent over the clear plastic bags. The buyer: Leonardo Notarbartolo. It was an invoice for a low-light video surveillance system. Four days later. looking for immediate clues. That way. the detectives executed a search warrant on the apartment Notarbartolo rented in Antwerp. Notarbartolo ate dinner with his family at home outside of Turin. there was an image of a tall. another detective knelt among the thorny brambles and peered at a small. if the cops were looking for tenants who'd disappeared. The police were finally treating his litter situation with the proper respect. They could even have a nice dinner party with some friends from the Netherlands. The others would split the rest. It was still a lot of money. Back at Van Camp's property. They waited at the bar until closing. A detective drove to the grocery and asked the manager to rewind his closed-circuit television to 12:56 pm on Thursday. his 3-year-old granddaughter played with his cell phone and made him laugh. It was a business card that bore the address and phone number of Elio D'Onorio. On Thursday night. Notarbartolo was already uneasy about what had happened in the forest. His biggest problem was that he needed to go back to Belgium. . He momentarily forgot his worries. Notarbartolo has consistently refused to identify his accomplices. A pile of torn paper seemed promising. the trash began to fill the evidence room at the Diamond Squad headquarters in Antwerp. Hour after hour. When the video came to a halt and snapped into focus. The receipt had a time-stamp. he didn't arrive. They had anticipated a haul in the tens of millions each.

They could be anywhere by now: Brazil. a longtime associate of Notarbartolo's. Unaware. They found 17 polished diamonds attached to certificates that the Belgian diamond detectives traced back to the vault. the Belgian detectives persuaded French police to raid the home of Finotto's girlfriend on the French Riviera. who immediately called the detectives. The day Notarbartolo was arrested.The next morning. On the night of the heist. Notarbartolo's wife and the friends who'd come for dinner stepped out of the building. the police surrounded their home in Italy. But that's exactly what Notarbartolo did. but Finotto was finally arrested in Italy in November 2007 and is serving a five-year sentence there. Tavano stayed in constant contact with Notarbartolo. aka the Genius. Peys and De Bruycker wondered whether they'd ever catch the thieves. They retrieved marked $100 bills that the detectives say belonged to one of the Diamond Center victims. The bags contained critical evidence. his phone flashed but made no sound. "Let's go then. The guard knew that the police were investigating Notarbartolo and phoned the building manager. Marco. The Belgian courts came down hard. His granddaughter had accidently turned off the ringer the night before. As Notarbartolo drove back to Belgium. pretending to have trouble understanding French and claiming that he couldn't remember the exact address of his own apartment. During that time. As the police car pulled to the curb. It never occurred to the detectives that one of the robbers would walk right back into the district. Acting on the surveillance-system invoice discovered on Van Camp's land. The friend took off as Notarbartolo stalled for time. Legal proceedings dragged on. an anxious. Notarbartolo waved at the security guard and dropped in to collect his mail. Ferdinando Finotto. Russia. With the cell phone records and the peculiarly precise salami sandwich evidence. When the police arrived. Thailand. Marco called his mother's phone—it was turned off. His 24year-old son. plus Notarbartolo. and the person most likely to be Speedy. alias the Monster. He tried his dad's phone repeatedly. In Notarbartolo's jacket pocket. was there and refused to open the front door. . They found Notarbartolo guilty of orchestrating the heist and sentenced him to 10 years. It just rang and rang. a cell tower in the Diamond District logged the presence of all three. Notarbartolo pointed out the apartment. Italian police broke open the safe at his home in Turin. as the Notarbartolos blew through the Swiss Alps. He frantically dialed his father's cell phone while the police smashed the door open. The police took everyone into custody. They were loaded down with bags and one carried a rolled-up carpet. More gems were vacuumed out of the rolled-up carpet from Notarbartolo's Antwerp apartment. paranoid man named Pietro Tavano. Eventually." Peys said and loaded the Italian into a car. While one of his friends from the Netherlands waited on the street outside the Diamond Center. the Belgian diamond detectives had asked the Italian police to search Notarbartolo's house. they found Notarbartolo chatting with the building manager and began peppering him with questions. Another minute and they would have been gone. The police dug out a series of prepaid SIM cards that were linked to cell phones used almost exclusively to call three Italians: Elio D'Onorio. He just knew how to walk there. Notarbartolo sped toward Antwerp.

Since there were roughly $25 million in legitimate claims at the time of the heist. hidden somewhere in the foothills of the Italian Alps. The King of Keys was never apprehended. where is the loot now? The murky nature of the diamond trade makes it difficult to get clear answers. was behind the whole thing. he calculated that at least another $75 million in goods was stolen. That brought the total value of the heist to about $100 million.When questioned by police in Italy. He has refused to allow his attorney to make any statements on his behalf. Regardless of which theory is correct. The $20 million found by the thieves belonged to traders not in on the scam. there is agreement that the thieves got away with millions that were never recovered. A fifth thief has never been identified. . For instance. Denice Oliver.joshuadavis.12.net) wrote about the Kaminsky Internet bug in issue 16. Nonetheless. Notarbartolo refuses to talk about what happened to the goods. I see Notarbartolo for the last time. detective De Bruycker says that three-quarters of the business is done under the table. his DNA was found on some adhesive tape left in the vault. Or: There was no insurance scam. though police know of his existence via cell phone records and DNA traces. If Notarbartolo's insurance scam theory is correct. On January 4. adding that it is something best discussed once he is out of prison. He was extradited to Belgium in November 2007 to begin a five-year sentence. Over the past 14 weeks. In the meantime. the adjuster who investigated the robbery for insurers. we have met seven times in the prison visiting room. Was $100 million stolen as the police estimate. The high-strung Pietro Tavano is serving a five-year sentence in Italy for the crime. it went down like this: The dealers who were in on it removed their goods—both legal and illegal—from the vault before the heist and then filed claims on the legitimate gems. The thieves actually found $100 million in the vault and Notarbartolo has spun a story to cloud the true origins of the heist. D'Onorio admitted that he had installed security cameras in Notarbartolo's office but denied any involvement in the crime. or just $20 million as Notarbartolo insists? Does it make sense that the heist was part of a larger insurance scam or is Notarbartolo's story a decoy to throw suspicion on others? Perhaps Notarbartolo's cousin. Whatever the truth. and yet questions remain. 2009. his share may very well be waiting for him. the Mafia don. calls this the "double whammy"—these dealers would have gotten the insurance payouts and kept their stock. Joshua Davis (www.

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